The international break is coming. After that, it's a set of fixtures where points are going to be imperative: Swansea (H) - West Ham (A), Tottenham (H), Aston Villa (H), Everton (A), Man City (H), Norwich (A), Hull City (A), West Ham (H), Sunderland (H). Of that list there are only two (Everton and Man City) where I wouldn't hope for some result. Eleven points out of that should be the bare minimum.
Which is why I think now is the time to act. If Jol sticks around and putters through those results, Fulham might be in too deep a hole to climb out of. Bring in someone now, let him get some points in a softer part of the schedule, and give him time to build up the squad in January.
But who do you think could do the job? And could we even get them? Here are my choices and some that I collected from other suggestions. Tell me what you think and nominate your own choices.
Bob Bradley is the option I know the most about. He has experience managing at both the club and international levels. He had success with three different clubs in MLS. With Chicago he won the double (MLS Cup and US Open Cup in 1998). He was named coach of the year for that achievement. He won a second US Open Cup in 2000. With Chivas USA he qualified the team for the playoffs and is the only one who's had any success with the club.
He coached the USA U-23 squad. He managed the USA squad that almost won the 2009 confederations cup and did better than expected in the 2010 World Cup.
He then took over the job of Eygpt's national team coach. This was a pretty thankless task. With the country in turmoil, no domestic league, and the inability to play home games; he still was just a better draw away from qualifying them for the World Cup. Eygpt however is not going to qualify for the World Cup barring a miracle. They lost the first leg of their qualifying tie to Ghana 6-1. After their match on November 19th, Bob Bradley will probably be available.
Now the question is, would he make a good Premier League manager? He's a very good motivator. He understands tactics. He's not afraid to be pragmatic when it's called for. But he will open things up and play better football when he has the opportunity. He's a bit like Roy Hodgson in that respect. The biggest issue with him will be that he's never managed a club team in Europe. He'll need a strong technical director with him to handle transfers and assembling talent. Though, I'd argue that every manager should have someone like that in place.
If Fulham offer the job, I'm pretty sure he takes it in a heart beat. And if Fulham are really lucky, perhaps he figures a way to get his son to transfer to the squad.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
You probably are most familiar with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from his time at Manchester United. He was a great player for them, scoring more than one goal in every two appearances. After his retirement from playing, he spent three years coaching the Manchester United reserves. He also coached the strikers at United for a year. You could have far worse things on your resume than a stint coaching under Alex Ferguson.
In 2008, he was offered the position of managing the Norway national side, but turned it down. In my opinion that says a lot about him. He could have taken that job, been paid well, and been comfortable. But he knew he wasn't ready. Not everyone is capable of making that decision.
In 2010, he signed a four year contract to manage Molde FK in the Norweigen Tippeligaen. He took over the club in 2011. Although Molde is traditionally one of the powers in the league, in 2010 the club was nearly relegated, finishing eleventh. After Solskjaer took over, the team won back to back titles in 2011 and 2012.
Like Bradley, I think he'd be a great coach. He also would do well to have a strong technical director working along side him, but he would be much more familiar with the European transfer market right out of the gate. He'd also have instant respect among the players and probably already has a bond with Brede Hangeland.
The issue is, would he take the job? He obviously has ambition. Taking over Fulham and keeping them up would no doubt be great for his CV. Failing would be a huge blow to his career though. Might he want a job that has less chance of damaging his reputation?
The other issue might be his ambition. If David Moyes doesn't work out at United, who might be a good candidate to replace him? I can see them making a strong push for Solskjaer, especially if he'd proven successful at Fulham. I don't think you should refuse to hire someone with ambition, but you don't want to be in a position where you have to replace your manager year after year.
Guus Hiddink is probably the most accomplished and famous of all the managers I've heard suggested. There's no doubt in my mind he could do the job. There's also little doubt in my mind that the players would respect him instantly.
Where there is doubt is whether or not he'd take it. Does he want to work anymore? I think there were a few national teams that would have hired him after his resignation from Anzhi Makhachkala this year. The fact that he still doesn't have a job might mean he's done. Or it might simply mean that he wants a large payday. You don't go to a place like Anzhi Makhachkala for the experience, you only go for the money. How much is it worth Fulham to stay up? Enough to open the checkbook for him? Then if you decide to throw money at the manager, what's left to improve the squad?
Of all the choices for manager, he'd be the one that least needed a strong technical director. He could step into the current set up and start functioning on day one. There is a downside to that experience though. He's 66 years old. Even in an ideal world, you couldn't expect to get more than three or four years out of him. That would mean it would be paramount to also hire a young coach to learn under him and a technical director to learn from him and work beside him so that the future transition if fairly painless.
Danny Murphy would be an instant hit with Fulham supporters. I also believe he'd be a very good motivator of the squad. I can't see him putting up with many lazy performances. But, is he ready to coach a premier league side? As much as my heart says yes, my head says no. For Danny's sake, I believe he should complete his badges and either work under an experienced coach or take a job at a lower league side.
That being said, if surrounded by the right support staff he could have success. His punditry is pretty spot on and he's never afraid to say what he believes. There are still enough players that remember him from his time at the club that he'd have respect instantly. If you believe that Fulham's problems are more motivation and tactics than talent, someone like Murphy could make a instant impact.
To reiterate though, the support staff would be key. He'd need a strong technical director. He'd need a strong first team coach to stand beside him. If you can't find those, or you can't find those who are willing to work and tutor him, than you shouldn't even consider making this appointment.
Of all the suggestions I've seen, I think this one is the least likely.
Roberto Di Matteo
I've seen Roberto Di Matteo's name floated a lot, and of all the candidates, he strikes me as the worst. I've never been that impressed with him as a manager. Let's take a look at his managerial history. He managed League One side MK Dons to a third place finish and lost in the playoffs. He took over West Brom as a recently relegated Championship side and was able to get them back into the premier league. Once promoted he didn't even last a year, and was on pace for a 38 point finish. That would have seen the club relegated. He was replaced by Roy Hodgson who managed 21 points in the final 13 matches to get the same squad all the way up to 11th place.
He then took over Chelsea. This is where most people get their impression of him from. He replaced Andres Villas Boas on March 5th. At this point Chelsea were in 5th place and were accumulating 1.7 points per match. After he took over, Chelsea fell to 6th place and accumulated 1.6 points per match. While it is true that he did win both the FA Cup and Champions League, there's no evidence to support that AVB wouldn't have done so as well. The only evidence we have is that the team was slightly poorer over his time. He was then fired in 2012.
Perhaps he didn't get a fair shake, but to me he seems as if he's currently a very good Championship manager who might be over his head in the premier league. He can win when he's given a squad with the talent of Chelsea, but can he win with less? I think Jol would probably win with a squad like Chelsea. If the club is going to take a chance on a manager, I'd rather it be someone else.
The most out of left field suggestion I've gotten is Dominic Kinnear. It was made to me by SB Nation Soccer Editor Kevin McCauley. At first I thought it might be a joke, but the more I think about it, the more I think it could work.
For those of you unfamiliar with MLS, you probably have no idea who he is. He is a Scottish American, born in Glasgow, but raised in the the US. He played mainly in the US both before and after MLS was founded. He earned 54 caps as a player for the US. In 2001, he became the top assistant with the San Jose Earthquakes. They won the MLS Cup in both 2001 and 2003. When the head coach left to take over the Canadian National Team he was promoted to head coach. He won the Supporters Shield (the team with the most points in the regular season) in 2005. The club then relocated to Houson where they won back to back MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007. Since then Houston has made the playoffs in every year but one and lost in the MLS Cup Final in two straight years. This year the team has a chance to make the MLS Cup Final in what would be the third straight year.
Kinnear is a very good coach. He's very strong tactically. However he has a fairly rigid system and players that don't buy into it aren't long to stick around. He is very good at getting mediocre players to raise their game. The downside is that the football he plays is pragmatic to the extreme. He's very typically Scottish in that regard.
Being that he's an American, he would have trouble navigating the European transfer market. That could once again be solved by hiring a strong technical director. While I believe this could be an inspired choice, I don't see it happening. Where as Bob Bradley has the international pedigree to be considered, I think Kinnear's lack of experience outside of MLS will disqualify him in too many minds. Add to the fact that Houston could be playing all the way up to December 7th and have at least one more game after the international break, the timing might be off.
Is there someone I missed? Is there a hot managerial candidate out there that I'm not aware of? Do you have a personal favorite among the listed choices or have someone else on your mine entirely. Sound off in the comments. At least by doing this we can focus on the future and not on the train wreck that is the past.